Wednesday 22 May 2013

10 Questions Column: Australian Conceptual Artist Kristin McIver

Australian visual artist Kristin McIver at her new exhibition in front of Sitting Piece just acquired by the National Gallery of Victoria. Photograph by Benny Jewell 
From graphic designer to award-winning visual artist in just five years, Kristin McIver is quietly conquering the hearts and minds of conceptual art lovers around the world, writes Ruth Borgobello

PROVING herself an artist to watch, McIver's latest work The Sitting Piece has just been acquired by the National Gallery of Victoria and she also has parallel exhibitions currently showing in Melbourne and Palm Springs.

Exploring themes of desire and aspiration prevalent in our hyper-consumer culture, McIver’s work draws on seductive advertising tools - emotive language, light, and hyper-gloss materials to provoke viewers into reflection. Her latest show ‘Status Quo’ at the James Makin Gallery in Melbourne, explores the surreptitious agenda of the digital world, transforming personal thoughts and data into economic currency.

After completing a Masters of Visual Art at Victorian College of the Arts in Melbourne in 2009, McIver’s work has been selected as finalist in a number of awards and residencies, including the Melbourne Sculpture Prize, Montalto Sculpture Prize, Substation Contemporary Art Prize, and Ward’s Summer Open Call in New York. In April this year, she launched her first international exhibition at Royale Projects Gallery in California.

1. What are you currently working on?
I am working on a new series of work which explores the commoditisation of identity in the globalised, digital age. It draws upon my own personal data, that is automatically collated and on-sold by programs such as Facebook, as its subject matter. I plan to use this data, in particular my facial recognition data, as the basis for a series of self portraits using different media. This may include painting, assemblage, musical composition, and a living garden. In the example of painting, each character of the data would be assigned a corresponding colour, which when applied in sequence would form the painting. In a musical composition, the colours would be replaced by musical notes. Each self portrait becomes a merging of the analogue and the digital, and highlights the increasing loss of control over identity as we post our self-image online.

2. What are the themes and inspirations for your new show?
The new series extends upon the themes in my current exhibition Status Quo, currently on show at James Makin Gallery in Melbourne, Australia. Status Quo continues my investigation into hyper-consumer culture and the commoditisation of our lives. Thought Piece, a major installation in the exhibition consists of neon, steel and concrete, transposing my digital thoughts into material subject matter. Another work Sitting Piece, includes the viewer in the listed medium, whereby the work is not complete until the viewer engages with it. As with social media, and the wider consumer culture, the user/consumer is an essential part of the system.

3. How did you choose art installations as your creative metier?
I am primarily a conceptual artist, so I try to choose the medium and method of installation that best conveys the themes I am trying to communicate. My work generally comments on consumer culture, so often I employ mediums and language from the realm of consumer society to reference the works back to these familiar signs. I am particularly interested in the way a viewer engages with an installation occupying space, as opposed to viewing a flat picture plane.

4. Can you describe the experience, person or training that has had the greatest impact on your artistic career?
Completing my Masters degree at Victorian College of the Arts in Melbourne in 2009 helped me to consolidate my ideas. The process of theory based practice punctuated by group and private critique sessions encouraged me to go beyond my comfort zone in my thinking and also the ambition of my works. My wonderful supervisors Bernhard Sachs and Stephen Haley among others greatly assisted in that process.

5. What do you find the most challenging aspect of your work technically?
Installation art can be challenging as I am often dealing with new materials and processes. As a result there is a learning curve with each project.

6. Where do you like to draw or create your initial installations?
Ideally I like to sit outside with my notepad and scribble concepts and visualisations down on paper, without the usual distractions of screens and noise. However ideas can't be forced, and inspiration often occurs at the strangest times, when I am not even engaged in the creative process - in the shower or while watching a music gig. When I decide something has potential I usually trial installations in my studio which is where the details are refined.

7. Do you have a set schedule of working creatively everyday or is the process more fluid?
My creative schedule is more of a fluid process as I'm usually working on a few projects at once. On any day I might be conceptualising a new work, reading theoretical texts, installing an exhibition, building a new work, painting a canvas, working on technical drawings, or collaborating with fabricators to realise a larger work.

8. What part of your artwork gives you the most happiness and do you find your creative process is more rational or instinctive?
I love seeing viewers interact with the works, often seduced by the bright candy colours or neon lights, then having that "ah" moment when they suddenly grasp the deeper concepts that underpin the work. With my artworks the initial process is instinctive - concept development and visualisation - then rational in their execution.

9. Is there a town or place in the world you consider inspiring?
New York City is definitely my favourite city of inspiration. There is such a breadth of contemporary artwork and a rich and diverse cultural history. The energy of the city is very inspiring.

10. In our digital age what does art give us and how do you define contemporary art?
The digital age is having a profound effect on the way we create and view art. The initial wave of digital art was "digital" in its subject, execution and presentation. However now that the initial excitement is over we are beginning to see the effects of digital on traditional artistic mediums, in a similar manner to how photography revolutionised painting in the late 19th century. I believe we are witnessing the emergence of a new contemporary art movement which is a hybrid of analogue and digital.

For more information about Kristin McIver's work contact the James Makin Gallery at 67 Cambridge Street, Collingwood Melbourne Australia:

Click on photographs for full-screen slideshow
Exhibited at Kristen McIver's new show at James Makin Gallery in Melbourne Thought Piece 2013 Neon, concrete, motion sensors, vinyl, electrical impulses  210x350cm. Photograph by Tim Gresham 

Lifeless III 2009 neon and synthetic polymer paint 45x170cm. Photograph by Tim Gresham
All For One, One For All 2011 Neon
The Good Life II 2011 Neon steel plastic and chain. Photograph by Tim Gresham
View Piece 2012 neon steel and acrylic

Is  This Love?  2010 Neon and steel 52x52cm 

Lifeless IV 2010 Montalto Sculpture Prize installation

The Dream neon and steel 2008

All that is Solid Melts into Air 2010 neon

Dream Home Visualiser #13 2008 Photograph by Tim Gresham  
Divine Intervention II 2010 neon steel artificial plants 250x120cm. Photograph by Christian Capurro

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